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Oyster Restoration Planned for Charlotte Harbor

Pilot project seeks volunteer help to restore estuary habitat

Punta Gorda, Fla.  | March 24, 2014

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office, The Nature Conservancy and the City of Punta Gorda have joined forces to launch a new oyster restoration program in the Peace River. Using the science-based Oyster Habitat Restoration Plan developed by the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program partners as a guide, The Nature Conservancy and Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve staff are piloting this project to create oyster reef habitat adjacent to the City of Punta Gorda’s Trabue Harborwalk.

“We are really excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy on this habitat creation project,” said Heather Stafford, manager for the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves. “Once we confirm new oysters are growing in the study area we can consider expanding the project into other locations,” she concluded.

Oysters are colonial mollusks found in estuaries where rivers meet the sea. They are an important part of the estuarine environment for a variety of reasons:

• They provide habitat for many forms of marine life that serve as prey for birds and fish;
• Oyster reefs filter water, helping to maintain water quality
• Oyster reefs can provide a stable environment for mangrove seedlings, called propagules, that can lead to the formation of new mangrove islands;
• The three-dimensional structure of an established oyster reef can help protect the adjacent shoreline from the impacts of erosion and sea level rise.

Three restoration methods will be tested in this study: oyster mats, oyster bags and loose shell secured by a perimeter of oyster bags. These materials will provide a foundation for oyster larvae to settle and form a new reef.

“The Nature Conservancy in Florida has more than 7 years of experience restoring oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon,” said Anne Birch, Marine Conservation Director at The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “We’re excited to bring this expertise to the Charlotte Harbor Estuary where oyster reefs play a critical role in filtering water, providing habitat for marine life, and protecting this coastal community from storms and sea-level rise.”

Volunteers are needed to help with all aspects of this project from preparing mat material, to making oyster mats and filling bags with shell, to deploying the materials in the water. Civic groups, schools, boating groups and recreational clubs are encouraged to participate in this effort to restore the estuary.

To volunteer, contact Katherine Aug at Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, at or 941-575-5861 ext. 117.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

Contact information

Rocio Johnson

The Nature Conservancy in Florida
(305) 432-2440

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